The movie Demolition Man has got a prophecy right. We might soon be living in a world where aggression is an ancient human trait.

Now, scientists have found a way to shut down the "rage button" in mice. This could lead to the discovery of newer methods of controlling severe pathological aggression in humans, new study says.

Scientists were able to identify and shut a key receptor in the brain. Malfunction in this receptor was associated with some mice showing excessive aggressive behavior. When this receptor was shut, the aggression levels came down.

"From a clinical and social point of view, reactive aggression is absolutely a major problem. We want to find the tools that might reduce impulsive violence," said Marco Bortolato, research assistant professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences at the USC School of Pharmacy. Bortolato is the lead author of the study.

Previous research reported that monoamine oxidase A (MAO A) determines the extent of violent behavior in humans. MAO A has inverse relationship with anger in men.

"The same type of mutation that we study in mice is associated with criminal, very violent behavior in humans. But we really didn't understand why that it is," Bortolato said.

"Low levels of MAO A are one basis of the predisposition to aggression in humans. The other is an encounter with maltreatment, and the combination of the two factors appears to be deadly: it results consistently in violence in adults," Bortolato said.

According to researchers, people are aggressive because of biological factors more than environmental ones.

"The fact that blocking this receptor moderates aggression is why this discovery has so much potential. It may have important applications in therapy. Whatever the ways environment can persistently affect behavior — and even personality over the long term — behavior is ultimately supported by biological mechanisms," Bortolato said.

Now, researchers want to find out what drugs will be most effective in controlling pathological aggression in people who suffer from disorders like autism and schizophrenia.

"Aggressive behaviors have a profound socio-economic impact, yet current strategies to reduce these staggering behaviors are extremely unsatisfactory. Our challenge now is to understand what pharmacological tools and what therapeutic regimens should be administered to stabilize the deficits of this receptor. If we can manage that, this could truly be an important finding," Bortolato said.